2007: Favorites (plus, some ill Bill)
It's strange, what sometimes inspires me to get my shit together and write on this blog.
I've had my "Best of 2007" list of 10 made for well over a month now. Thing is, I'm not really a fan of "best of" lists. I'm especially not fond of -- if making such a list -- ranking a bunch of albums against each other. I think the old cliche of "it's like comparing apples and oranges" truly applies here, when you're talking about things like art, which should ideally be dealt with in as subjective a manner as possible.
Who am I to say the ten albums on my list are the absolute "best" that came out in 2007?
When I do make up such lists, I typically only do so by being prodded by some outside influence. I've written a couple for magazines over the years. I did one last year for a foreign website collecting Top Ten lists from as many music bloggers as possible. That turned out to be a decent read, actually.
I did one this year because of a music newsgroup to which I'm subscribed. The guy who has taken over the duty of compiling the stats for the group's top 100 choices uses a point system to rank every member's submitted list. First place gets the most points, with a decreasing amount going from 2nd to 10th.
This year, I wanted Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' 100 Days, 100 Nights to earn as many points as possible. Such a fantastic, timeless album. So, I submitted my list, which I intended to mirror here.
Then, I got really lazy. I went home to visit the family. I took many naps. I drifted off for a while.
What snapped me back, at least as far as this place is concerned, was what always snaps me back: hearing (or, in this case re-hearing) something magnificent. On that aforementioned music newsgroup, the subject of Bill Withers arose, and I got to once again spout off about how much I love the man and his music. As a bonus to my rant, I added links to four Withers songs, two of which I've posted before on Pimps, and two that I hadn't been struck by until a few nights ago.
Those two songs:
"Hope She'll be Happier": Wow. Just. . . crushing. This like soul music made by Radiohead or something.
"Don't You Want to Stay": "Hi, I'm Bill Withers, and I'm a fucking stone pimp." Much in the same way Wes Anderson initially wanted to use only music from The Kinks for the soundtrack to Rushmore, I want to make a dark indie comedy using only Bill Withers.
With those two new favorites showing up in my headphones, I finally felt the inclination to complete that post on my favorite records of 2007. Not even including the dozens of great records I never even got to hear this year, the dozens of records I bought were virtually impossible to narrow down to ten. Just look at some of the stuff I had to leave out: Arcade Fire's Neon Bible! Aesop Rock's None Shall Pass! Andrew Bird's Armchair Apocrypha! Dethklok's Dethalbum! Feist's The Reminder! Plus, tons of others from the likes of Modest Mouse, The White Stripes, Matt Pond PA, Les Savy Fav, the Shout Out Louds, Pinback. . . even the soundtrack to I'm Not There. In any other year, all of these would be in contention for the top spots.
Damn it all. Here's the ten I went with, no longer in any particular order:
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights
Sharon Jones is for real. 100%. I made a mention of 100 Days a couple of months ago (along with posting a couple of tracks), but it's probably a record I should have championed more at the time of its release. I've never prided myself on posting about the most currently released music. That's not what this site is for, and there are thousands of places to go if you're waiting to see what's next. This place is more reserved for the stuff that may have slipped through the cracks, or that just doesn't get discussed enough. Hopefully, 2008 will be Sharon Jones' year and I won't have to blog about her anymore because she'll be more popular than R Kelly.
Since I already posted two tracks from this record, here's a bonus track from the digital version:
"The Collection Song"
Kings of Leon Because of the Times
Maybe I didn't read enough music rags this past year, but this record seemed to get totally slept on. There seems to be an undercurrent of hipster hatred for these guys, which is funny, because a lot of the hatred seems to be aimed at the fact that they come off as hipsters. Why cut off your nose to spite your face? Me, I think it's pretty much the best thing they've done yet. "McFearless" (posted here previously) is absolutely one of the best songs of the year. (What, now I'm speaking in absolutes?)
"True Love Way"
Band of Horses Cease to Begin
You get it at this point, I'm sure: I love Band of Horses. I practically dedicated an entire month to them here, so I'm not going to carry on too much more about this record. While I'm doing you the favor of brevity, let me also be sure to include a link to "Detlef Schrempf," the song I posted about but did not include in my rave review of Cease not so long ago.
"Islands on the Coast"
Eddie Vedder Into the Wild
Another album I've covered here already. The perfect soundtrack for the subject at hand, and an incredibly humane film by Sean Penn. The track I'm including tonight, "Guaranteed," which just last night won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song, is actually two versions of the same song (the second take is instrumental, and comes after a chunk of silence following the vocal version).
Wilco Sky Blue Sky
While nowhere near my favorite Wilco album, Sky is still pretty stellar, and would probably be a career best for any other band besides Wilco. Hell, just writing something as delicate and poignant as "Either Way," "What Light," or "Impossible Germany" would be enough to get by.
"Hate it Here" (from bonus live DVD)
Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven's Gate
I didn't see a lot of shows last year (school and work are pretty much devouring the hours of my life at a wicked pace), but one of the best times I had was at Rogue Wave's show at Omaha's Waiting Room on a quiet sunday night. While the turnout was disappointingly small, the band and the crowd were appreciative of each other's company. It felt really good to see drummer Pat Spurgeon smiling and playing his heart out after going through a second kidney transplant not long ago. It felt good to support a band full of obviously decent guys who came armed with an endless bag of hooks and harmony. Asleep at Heaven's Gate is, in my eyes, their third flawless record in a row.
Dr. Dog We All Belong
I think to truly appreciate Philadelphia's Dr. Dog, you have to trick yourself into forgetting these guys are around right now. Imagine you're listening to a record that was made 35 to 40 years ago. It isn't hard to do, especially when the opening song on the record sounds like a mixture of The Band, Roxy Music and Village Green-era Kinks. Further exploration in the grooves of this album will net comparisons to Mercury Rev, The Beach Boys, Of Montreal, The Beatles. . . you know, all the best shit ever.
"I Hope There's Love"
Radiohead In Rainbows
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everyone has this in his or her Top 10 this year. Well, there's a reason for that, sucka. Somehow, they made an organic record that sounds every bit as electronic and trippy as their past couple of albums. Radiohead allowed fans to pay whatever price they wished for the music (I paid about $8), but no matter what the cost, it was worth every penny. ("Bangers & Mash," included here, comes from the bonus disc, released with the deluxe version of In Rainbows.)
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place"
"Bangers & Mash"
Dinosaur Jr. Beyond
The only thing more amazing than Lou Barlow and J. Mascis kissing and making up was the fact that they got the old Dinosaur Jr. back together and made an album that actually rocks just as much as any of their earliest stuff! Do you honestly think when Led Zeppelin finally get around to recording the expected "reunion album" that all reunited bands are expected to record, it's going to kick as much ass as anything on the first Zep album? Not bloodly likely, friend.
"This is All I Came to Do" (J, in a live solo acoustic radio performance)
The Shins Wincing the Night Away
The album that time forgot. I almost left this on my list because it came out so near the start of 2007, but I spent a good chunk of the beginning of the year hypnotized by this record. I listened to it so much that I found an undeniable correlation between the ending guitar drone of "Turn on Me" and the post-extraneous-solo guitar of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper." Now that winter has struck Omaha, I've returned to this melancholy little gem. So many good songs on this record. The Smiths-ian "Australia." The Sea Change-era Beck sound of "Sea Legs." Any album that kicks off with something as uplifting as "Sleeping Lessons" can count on my vote.
"Nothing At All" (bonus track)